The Mak­ing Of The Get­away

We dig into the story of how a seem­ingly generic can­celled Playsta­tion ti­tle be­came an open world, gang­ster-filled, vi­o­lence-fu­elled, bloody tale of epic pro­por­tions

Retro Gamer - - CONTENTS - Words by De­nis Mur­phy

How Team Soho turned Lon­don into a sweary gang­ster-filled open world

Chun Wah Kong, lead de­signer of The Get­away, al­ways counted him­self as lucky to be work­ing on Team Soho’s sweary third­per­son ac­tion game, but when scout­ing for lo­ca­tions in a lap danc­ing bar dur­ing of­fice hours, he paused for a sec­ond and thought, “How did I get here where I’m be­ing paid to do this?”

Long be­fore The Get­away sold 3.5 mil­lion copies, be­came one of the Playsta­tion 2’s most iconic ti­tles, and Chun was sat in that bar pinch­ing him­self, the am­bi­tious open world ti­tle started off as a pro­to­type for the orig­i­nal Playsta­tion. How­ever, with the Playsta­tion be­ing at the tail end of its life­cy­cle and the warm shin­ing light of the PS2’S Emo­tion En­gine on the hori­zon, the project – in­ter­nally known as

Car 2 for Sony’s 32-bit ma­chine – was switched over to the Playsta­tion 2. But with the prom­ise of a next-gen­er­a­tion sys­tem came the chance to ex­pand upon the orig­i­nal premise of Car 2. In speak­ing about the gen­e­sis of The Get­away in its Playsta­tion 2 in­car­na­tion, Chun ex­plains, “Once we had set­tled with the ba­sic get­away driver premise, I went about writ­ing nu­mer­ous sce­nar­ios and game­play me­chan­ics that would lend them­selves to this theme. These ideas were quite self-con­tained, and we needed a way to string them to­gether. I remember go­ing for lunch with Bren­dan Mc­na­mara [The Get­away’s direc­tor] at Yo! Sushi on Poland Street, which was just round the corner from the of­fice. We talked about in­ject­ing a cin­e­matic feel into the game, and how it would be char­ac­ter driven. We wanted to turn it into an ac­tion movie with high-speed chases down Lon­don streets.

“It would be a tale of Lon­don’s no­to­ri­ous gangs fight­ing over ter­ri­tory and power; it would be gritty, it would most cer­tainly be an 18 cer­tifi­cate. To tell such a story, we would need pho­to­re­al­ism: the char­ac­ters, the cars, the streets, ev­ery­thing. We got back to the of­fice and we laid all these ideas on the ta­ble and thrashed out a sto­ry­line that al­lowed for these in­di­vid­ual sce­nar­ios to form a sim­ple but co­her­ent story arc.”

With the Playsta­tion 2 dev kits en-route to the of­fice, Team Soho was rar­ing to go with its new­found game plan. Chun re­mem­bers the feel­ing of ela­tion in the of­fice. “It re­ally felt like any­thing was pos­si­ble. You dreamt it, and it could be done,” he says. At its heart, The Get­away was nat­u­rally in­spired by a slew of clas­sic Lon­don-based gang­ster movies. An­drew Hamil­ton, graphic de­signer on the project, dishes out the films the PS2 clas­sic took note of, “The big­gest in­flu­ence for The Get­away was Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock, And Two Smok­ing Bar­rels. It had come out a cou­ple of years pre­vi­ously and had made Lon­don and its crim­i­nal un­der­world cool again. It was def­i­nitely an in­flu­ence in not only how we wanted to show Lon­don, but also in the graphic de­sign for the game, and in turn the movies that in­flu­enced their style such as Get Carter, and The Ital­ian Job. The Long Good Fri­day was an­other in­flu­ence, as it’s the Bri­tish gang­ster movie!” The story of The Get­away is gritty, vi­o­lent and stylish, and fea­tures two main sto­ry­lines that in­ter­sected at var­i­ous points. In the pri­mary sto­ry­line, the player takes the role of Mark Ham­mond an ex-gang­ster who,

it re­ally felt like any­thing was pos­si­ble. You dreamt it, and it could be done Chun Wah Kong

af­ter his wife is mur­dered and his child is kid­napped, be­comes the grim er­rand boy of Lon­don’s big­gest gang­ster, Char­lie Jol­son. The sec­ond sto­ry­line that runs con­cur­rent with Ham­mond’s lets play­ers as­sume the role of some­one on the com­plete op­po­site side of the tracks, po­lice of­fi­cer Frank Carter.

Though Chun agrees with An­drew in terms of movie in­flu­ences, he does of­fer up an ad­di­tional source of in­spi­ra­tion that led to The Get­away, and per­haps one that many would not have imag­ined. “Around that time I had just fin­ished playing the Ja­panese ver­sion of Sonic Ad­ven­ture on the Dream­cast and I re­ally loved the in­ter­wo­ven sto­ry­lines,” he re­mem­bers. “So from that came about the idea of dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters see­ing the world from their own per­spec­tive and how they would in­ter­pret the same cir­cum­stances dif­fer­ently.” Though the game does in­deed fea­ture two sto­ry­lines that of­ten cross over, the orig­i­nal plan for this Sonic Ad­ven­ture-styled in­ter­weav­ing nar­ra­tive was planned to be far more dy­namic than it ul­ti­mately be­came.

Chun con­tin­ues, “In an early ver­sion of the de­sign, as well as Mark and Frank, the player could also play as Susie, Yas­min and Harry. Some of these games would come be­fore the main story timeline in the fi­nal game, eg: As Harry you would lead a small gang of Char­lie’s men around the city to col­lect debt and pro­tec­tion money. All this made for bet­ter char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment, cre­at­ing deeper char­ac­ter re­la­tion­ships, as well as a more var­ied game­play ex­pe­ri­ence. For in­stance, Susie was sup­posed to be a singer and her sec­tion was a rhythm game! It was a bit of a shame we drop these ideas, but all the ex­tra work would’ve killed us.”

In speak­ing about how he ap­proached game­play dif­fer­ences of Ham­mond and Carter, Chun says, “Look­ing back, per­haps they are not as dif­fer­ent as I would have liked them to be and I re­lied too heav­ily on the NPCS’ re­sponse to Mark and Frank to pro­vide those nu­ances. So, for ex­am­ple, Mark’s char­ac­ter can take hostages and use them as hu­man shields. If the player man­ages to grab a high-rank­ing gang­ster, his foot­sol­diers would be or­dered to sur­ren­der. Whereas if you grabbed a low-level thug, no one would care if he gets shot in the cross­fire. Frank’s char­ac­ter doesn’t take hostages, in­stead he re­strains them with cable tie hand­cuffs. Both char­ac­ters had sim­ple el­e­ments of team­play with friendly NPCS, but Frank’s char­ac­ter took this a step fur­ther when as­sisted by the spe­cial­ist firearms SO19 unit.”

Carter’s story was un­locked once the player fin­ished Ham­mond’s set of 12 mis­sions, and fo­cused more on shootouts, whereas Ham­mond’s playthrough had more driv­ing. De­signed to not be es­pe­cially harder than the first playthrough, Chun says his goal for Carter’s sto­ry­line was “a bit like Ghouls N’ Ghosts when Arthur is go­ing through the lev­els a sec­ond time with the Psy­cho Can­non weapon. It was fun with­out the dif­fi­culty.”

One of the ma­jor sell­ing points of The Get­away was its de­pic­tion of Lon­don, as in­stead of a city sim­ply ‘in­spired’ by Lon­don much like Lib­erty City in GTA is Rock­star Games’ fic­tional ver­sion of New York City,

i had just fin­ished playing the Ja­panese ver­sion of sonic ad­ven­ture on the Dream­cast and i re­ally loved the in­ter­wo­ven sto­ry­lines Chun Wah Kong

the team painstak­ingly recre­ated a full ten square miles of Lon­don within the game. The process of recre­at­ing Lon­don be­gan by carv­ing the city into pieces and as­sign­ing ter­ri­to­ries to the four gangs of The Get­away: East End Gang, Yardies, Tri­ads and Soho Gang. De­tail­ing this process Chun says, “Af­ter we gave iden­ti­ties to the four gangs, we set about as­sign­ing their ter­ri­to­ries and fi­nal­is­ing The Get­away’s world map. We started with the East End Gang in Beth­nal Green and the Chi­nese Tri­ads in Chi­na­town. A straight line from these two points on the map al­ready mea­sure over three miles in real life. And with the Soho Gang, the Ja­maican Yardies Gang, the land­marks that had to be in the game to rep­re­sent Lon­don, and other spe­cial level de­sign re­quire­ments in place, the ex­te­rior world map started to take shape.

“We made sure we had cov­ered the main road ar­ter­ies be­tween the dif­fer­ent ar­eas with denser back streets and short­cuts around the places of in­ter­est.

I put it down to am­bi­tion and naivety for the size of world map. Ad­di­tion­ally, road build­ing tools were cre­ated and han­dled by a 3D pack­age called Maya, with level de­sign­ers mak­ing sure that the road widths, gra­di­ent, pave­ment type, mark­ings and ev­ery­thing else were ac­cu­rately recre­ated.”

Be­yond get­ting the out­line and roads of Lon­don nailed down, the next step was ar­guably the most ar­du­ous. Armed with an early Sony Mav­ica dig­i­tal cam­era that saved pho­to­graphs on a clunky 3.5-inch floppy disc, which could barely hold one un­com­pressed im­age at a time, a team of artists de­scended upon Lon­don and snapped ev­ery iconic area and build­ing they could, lead­ing to a gi­gan­tic li­brary of as­sets they could pull from when re­build­ing the city within the game. The same artists also took images that could be used for re­al­is­tic tex­tures, which helped hit home a level of re­al­ism largely un­seen on the Playsta­tion 2 un­til The Get­away. Fur­ther­more, Stu­art Har­vey (level de­signer) braved the scru­tiny of the great Bri­tish pub­lic when he drove around the city with a DV cam­corder strapped to the top of his car.

The stunt did see him be­ing pulled over by the po­lice on sev­eral dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions, but it did help the team suc­cess­fully recre­ate au­then­tic pop­u­la­tion density and foot­fall among Lon­don’s busiest ar­eas. An­drew hits home both the teams am­bi­tion and goal by say­ing, “One of the goals we wanted for The Get­away was for it to be a real Lon­don, it’s where we lived and worked. The Get­away was one of the first, if not the first, game to faith­fully recre­ate a city us­ing photography, some­thing that’s pretty com­mon these days, but back in 2000 hadn’t ever been at­tempted.”

An­other stand­out el­e­ment of The Get­away is its com­plete lack of HUD. Solely done for the pur­pose to help pull the player into the on­go­ing cin­e­matic ex­pe­ri­ence, how the team con­veyed in­for­ma­tion to the player in a grounded and log­i­cal way was ef­fec­tive, dar­ing and, even to this day, in­cred­i­bly in­no­va­tive. For in­stance, in­stead of a min­imap that the player would fol­low dur­ing their many high-speed chases and es­capes through­out Lon­don, flick­er­ing left and right in­di­ca­tors on the play­ers car would sim­ply turn on and off to di­rect the player in the di­rec­tion of their ob­jec­tive. If a car was smashed up enough that the in­di­ca­tors were de­stroyed, the player had no op­tion but to aban­don their ve­hi­cle and find an­other one, unless they wanted to get lost among the streets of Lon­don. Ad­di­tion­ally, changes in health sta­tus was also achieved purely by vi­su­als, too. As the player re­ceived dam­age, blood would be­gin soaking through their clothes and down their faces as they slowly hunched over as they fee­bly at­tempted to walk or run. The only way to heal the char­ac­ter through­out the game was to have them lean against a wall as their caught their breath, which added to the sense of gritty re­al­ism that oozed from ev­ery pore of The Get­away.

“Ul­ti­mately, I think play­ers ap­pre­ci­ate these in­no­va­tions and chances we took with the de­sign

of The Get­away,” Chun says of this ap­proach to re­al­ism, “They were part of the game’s iden­tity, its charm. As they say, ‘Orig­i­nal­ity is un­der­rated.’”

As The Get­away was a new fron­tier for its en­tire team, Chun did have his wor­ries. He ex­plains, “I used to worry a lot and Bren­dan Mc­na­mara would tell me, let the pro­gram­mers, artists and an­i­ma­tors worry about them. These things might sound triv­ial now, but back then it was an in­cred­i­ble ac­com­plish­ment to mo­cap mul­ti­ple peo­ple in the same scene at the same time. We did so to get the best per­for­mances from the ac­tors. We elim­i­nated load­ing screens with a dy­namic load­ing sys­tem so you can roam freely in the game, cre­at­ing a seam­less ex­pe­ri­ence. Lesser games back then nor­mally would have stopped to load a new area, or an in­te­rior level. There was also the tran­si­tion from a team that was ex­pe­ri­enced in mak­ing rac­ing games to one where char­ac­ter-based ac­tion ad­ven­ture had an equal if not big­ger share of the game, I must con­fess that ini­tially had a lot of peo­ple wor­ried. I remember the day when I could press the ‘exit car’ but­ton and was able to run around as Mark, that was a water­shed mo­ment made pos­si­ble by the hard work of pro­gram­mers like Jim Bul­mer (player char­ac­ter pro­gram­mer) and the an­i­ma­tion team.” Wor­ries were not just tech­ni­cal how­ever, as the team’s le­gal depart­ment had the gi­gan­tic un­der­tak­ing of ac­quir­ing a slew of car li­cences to use. With over 50 cars in the game from brands such as Lexus, Re­nault, Toy­ota, Mercedes-benz and BMW, this was no easy feat. In fact, some cars that were fea­tured in the game dur­ing de­vel­op­ment now only ex­ist within early beta ver­sions of the game, most likely lost to gam­ing his­tory.

Look­ing back at the The Get­away, An­drew re­marks, “It was the first triple-a game I worked on, and the first time I’d seen the art­work we’d cre­ated ev­ery­where – what felt like ev­ery shop win­dow around. It was also the 100 mil­lionth disc though Sony’s DADC, which the team all got a lim­ited edi­tion ver­sion of the game to com­mem­o­rate that. We even had a ‘pre­mier’ in Le­ices­ter Square at a cin­ema, with limos, press, and a red car­pet. How can you not look back at that

fondly? For me, it led to a lot op­por­tu­ni­ties and took me to Aus­tralia to work with Bren­dan Mc­na­mara on LA Noire, and then brought me back to Playsta­tion where I work now at SIE out of the Santa Mon­ica Stu­dio. At the end of the day, I hope that The Get­away is re­mem­bered as an im­por­tant game in the in­dus­try. We tried some­thing new, to faith­fully recre­ate a city we lived and worked in, and make a game you could play in it. I think we did that quite well.” Chun shares An­drew’s love and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the ti­tle, too. ”I only have fond mem­o­ries. I don’t re­ally think about the game so much but the fam­ily we formed as a team. I’m be­yond grate­ful that I had the priv­i­lege to work with such tal­ented peo­ple on such an ex­tra­or­di­nary game that broke so many new grounds, and for the trust that ev­ery­one put in me. Ev­ery­thing I did was from the heart. I must also men­tion the hard work our PR depart­ment and in­ter­na­tional depart­ment did. I got a kick out of the game be­ing li­censed to Cap­com in Ja­pan – how cool was that? I think we all share a strong sense of own­er­ship of the game, hav­ing de­voted three years of our lives to the project; liv­ing, breath­ing The Get­away. The most fun I’ve had mak­ing a game ever. I would also like to thank the fans of The Get­away. Over the years we have chat­ted on so­cial me­dia and at game ex­pos. I’m ea­ger to see a fresh take on the fran­chise. Some peo­ple said the orig­i­nal couldn’t be done, so I would say never say never.”

De­spite the teams con­cerns and the gar­gan­tuan task of cre­at­ing The Get­away that even most sea­soned de­vel­op­ers would surely have crum­bled un­der, the game came to­gether to be one of the most iconic ti­tles in the PS2’S li­brary. Though a se­quel and spin-off came and went with­out the fan­fare the orig­i­nal en­joyed, the fran­chise is still one that is of­ten re­quested for a re­vival by Playsta­tion fans worldwide. Per­haps one day that dream will be­come a re­al­ity, but for now at least gamers will al­ways have the 2002 Lon­don time cap­sule that Team Soho lov­ingly cre­ated against all the odds.

We tried some­thing new, to faith­fully recre­ate a city we lived and worked in, and make a game you could play in it An­drew Hamil­ton

» Anna playing the role of Yas­min in a mo­tion cap­ture ses­sion.

» Ham­mond is in a spot of trou­ble in this pro­mo­tional poster, one of many cre­ated by artist Ju­lian Gib­son. » Chun Wah Kong was lead de­signer of The Get­away.

» A life­like re­cre­ation of The Get­away’s big bad: Char­lie Jol­son. » Geared-up ac­tors and tech­ni­cal staff pre­par­ing for a mo­tion cap­ture ses­sion. » [PS2] Yas­min and Ham­mond make a fan­tas­tic duo, and though they don’t share a lot of screen time, it’s a mem­o­rable team-up. » [PS2] In one of the more mem­o­rable mis­sions, Ham­mond must drop a dead Triad gang mem­ber di­rectly into the heart of Triad gang­land.

While vis­it­ing his men­tor in UCL Hospi­tal in Blooms­bury, Carter must fight off at­tack­ing mem­bers of the Beth­nal Green Mob.Crack­ing down on a Beth­nal Green Mob run brothel in Maryle­bone, Carter makes the ar­rest of Jake Jol­son.Sent on his sec­ond er­rand by Char­lie Jol­son, Ham­mond must steal a Ter­ra­cotta sol­dier statue in Hyde Park con­tain­ing a kilo of Co­caine. » [PS2] As the player gets dam­aged, their char­ac­ter will grasp their bleed­ing wounds, and even­tu­ally hunch over in pain. » [PS2] As flash­ing in­di­ca­tors on a car es­sen­tially take the role of a min­imap, once they’re smashed it’s time to find a new ride.Af­ter the mur­der of his wife and the kid­nap­ping of his child in Soho, Ham­mond is used as a pawn in Char­lie Jol­son’s mas­ter­plan.Swear­ing vengeance, Ham­mond and Yas­min bring the fight to Char­lie Jol­son’s man­sion in May­fair.Af­ter mak­ing his way to Chi­na­town, Carter finds him­self amid a gang war be­tween the Yardies and the Tri­ads.Af­ter res­cu­ing two fel­low po­lice of­fi­cers at a Yardie Crack house on Holy­well Street, Carter soon dis­cov­ers that his boss is cor­rupt.Ham­mond, Carter and Yas­min’s fates are re­vealed as they go head-to-head with the Beth­nal Green Mob near Tower Bridge.

» [PS2] Much like Lon­don it­self, there’s a great va­ri­ety of in­te­rior lo­ca­tions in The Get­away, in­clud­ing the dimly-lit Yardie crack­house. » Chun and the team test­ing out the mo­tion cap­ture equip­ment. » Don Kem­bry played the role of tor­tured pro­tag­o­nist Mark Ham­mond. » The mo­cap scenes were a big deal at the time, and are com­mon practice in the gam­ing in­dus­try to­day.

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